Can modern tech like augmented reality help religions recruit more followers?
What it means: Religions can act like businesses in several ways. They’re keen to grow their customer base and convince existing members to stay loyal to their brand by marketing it as better than their rival’s offerings. They invest the money they receive from these customers in infrastructure (places of worship), projects (such as helping vulnerable people) and staff (rabbis, priests, immans etc). And their decline in popularity among certain groups (the rich, the young) has been linked by some to their slowness in modernising and their reluctance to adopt the latest cutting-edge technology.
So the Catholic church has decided to try something new: an app, created by an evangelical foundation and blessed by Pope Francis, which is based on Pokemon Go but involves players finding bible characters and saints. The idea is to get young Catholics more engaged with their religion (less than half of US Catholics attend church weekly), and perhaps even win over some new converts.
Will it work? Maybe. Pokemon Go, and augmented reality (where the fake bits exist within real life, so the app shows you the street you’re walking on with the virtual characters superimposed on it) in general, is extremely popular. Pokemon Go was downloaded 800 million times and made its parent company, Nintendo, $115 million.
Snazzy apps aside, how much money and how many believers religions have can change how our economy looks for all of us, because big religions have a lot of power and influence over society.
Here’s just one example: Islam says you can’t charge interest on loans. (The interest is a percentage of the loan which you have to pay back on top of the amount you borrowed. The longer it takes to pay back your loan, the more interest you’re charged.) That means places with lots of Muslims set up so-called ‘sharia banks’ (which everyone can use). Some people think this is a more moral way of loaning money, because people who are struggling to pay their loan back don’t end up more and more in debt.
…So where next? Not only do economic ideas shape the institutions and communities we live in, they also influence our own ideas of personal success – be it earning well, achieving a ‘Dr.’ or ‘CEO’ at the front of our label, or living a sustainable life. But what with the speed at which technology is transforming our economies, we can barely predict what ‘s in store for our economies and where we’ll fit in…